Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10 - We Are The Mighty
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Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

The Air Force is reving up electronic warfare upgrades for its F-15 fighter as a way to better protect against enemy fire and electronic attacks, service officials said.


Boeing has secured a $478 million deal to continue work on a new technology called with a system called the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System, or EPAWSS.

“This allows the aircraft to identify a threat and actively prosecute that threat through avoidance, deception or jamming techniques,” Mike Gibbons, Vice President of the Boeing F-15 program, told Scout Warrior in an interview a few months ago.

Related: Trump teases big order of F-18s in response to F-35 cost overruns

 These updated EW capabilities replace the Tactical Electronic Warfare Suite, which has been used since the 1980s, not long after the F-15 first deployed. The service plans to operate the fleet until the mid-2040’s, so an overhaul of the Eagle’s electronic systems helps maintain U.S. air supremacy, the contract announcement said.

Boeing won the initial contract for the EPAWSS project last year and hired BAE Systems as the primary subcontractor. 

Overall, the US Air Force is vigorously upgrading the 1980s-era F-15 fighter by giving new weapons and sensors in the hope of maintaining air-to-air superiority over the Chinese J-10 equivalent.

The multi-pronged effort not only includes the current addition of electronic warfare technology but also extends to super-fast high-speed computers, infrared search and track enemy targeting systems, increased networking ability and upgraded weapons-firing capability, Air Force and Boeing officials said.

“The Air Force plans to keep the F-15 fleet in service until the mid-2040’s.  Many of the F-15 systems date back to the 1970’s and must be upgraded if the aircraft is to remain operationally effective. Various upgrades will be complete as early as 2021 for the F-15C AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar and as late as 2032 for the various EW (electronic warfare) upgrades,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Rob Leese told Scout Warrior a few months ago.

The Air Force currently operates roughly 400 F-15C, D and E variants. A key impetus for the upgrade was well articulate in a Congressional report on the US and China in 2014. (US-China Economic and Security Review Commission —www.uscc.gov). Among other things, the report cited rapid Chinese technological progress and explained that the US margin of superiority has massively decreased since the 1980s.

As an example, the report said that in the 1980s, the US F-15 was vastly superior to the Chinese equivalent – the J-10. However, Chinese technical advances in recent years have considerably narrowed that gap to the point where the Chinese J-10 is now roughly comparable to the US F-15, the report explained.

Air Force and Boeing developers maintain that ongoing upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that this equivalence is not the case and that, instead, they will ensure the superiority of the F-15.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
A Boeing Advanced F-15 Eagle on the flight line in St. Louis. | Boeing photo

Among the upgrades is an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processer in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII.

“It is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput, translating into faster and more reliable mission processing capability for an aircrew,” Boeing spokesman Randy Jackson told Scout Warrior.

High tech targeting and tracking technology is also being integrated onto the F-15, Gibbons added. This includes the addition of a passive long-range sensor called Infrared Search and Track, or IRST.

The technology is also being engineered into the Navy F-18 Super Hornet. The technology can detect the heat signature, often called infrared emissions, of enemy aircraft.

“The system can simultaneously track multiple targets and provide a highly effective air-to-air targeting capability, even when encountering advanced threats equipped with radar-jamming technology,” Navy officials said.

IRST also provides an alternate air-to-air targeting system in a high threat electronic attack environment, Navy, Air Force and industry developers said.

The F-15 is also being engineered for additional speed and range, along with weapons-firing ability. The weapons-carrying ability is being increased from 8 up to 16 weapons; this includes an ability to fire an AIM-9x or AIM-120 missile. In addition, upgrades to the aircraft include adding an increased ability to integrate or accommodate new emerging weapons systems as they become available. This is being done through both hardware and software-oriented “open standards” IP protocol and architecture.

The aircraft is also getting a “fly-by-wire” automated flight control system.

“Fly by wire means when the pilot provides the input – straight to a computer than then determines how to have the aircraft perform the way it wants – provides electrical signals for the more quickly and more safely move from point to point as opposed to using a mechanical controls stick,” Gibbons explained.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
The J-10 at Zhuhai airshow. | Creative Commons photo

Along with these weapons upgrades and other modifications, the F-15 is also getting upgrades to the pilot’s digital helmet and some radar signature reducing, or stealthy characteristics.

However, at the same time, the F-15 is not a stealthy aircraft and is expected to be used in combat environments in what is called “less contested” environments where the Air Force already has a margin of air superiority over advanced enemy air defenses.

Also read: World’s most-advanced aircraft carrier one step closer to completion

For this reason, the F-15 will also be increasing networked so as to better support existing 5th-generation platforms such as the F-22 and F-35, Air Force officials said.

The intent of these F-15 upgrades is to effectively perform the missions assigned to the F-15 fleet, which are to support the F-22 in providing air superiority and the F-35 in providing precision attack capabilities, Leese said.

“While these upgrades will not make these aircraft equivalent to 5th generation fighters, they will allow the F-15 to support 5th generation fighters in performing their missions, and will also allow F-15s to assume missions in more permissive environments where capabilities of 5th generation fighters are not required,” Leese added.

Gibbons added that the upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that the fighter aircraft remains superior to its Chinese equivalent.

“The F-15 as a vital platform that still has a capability that cannot be matched in terms of ability to fly high, fly fast, go very far carry a lot. It is an air dominance machine,” Gibbons explained.

popular

This is what a silencer for howitzers looks like

For those moments when you absolutely, positively have to train your artillery but you don’t want to wake the local population, accept no substitutes. Yes, artillery silencers are a thing.


Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

Pictured without a gun to suppress. (photo from TheFirearmBlog)

These photos were taken at an artillery range in Germany. The vehicle using the giant suppressor is an M109G 155mm self-propelled howitzer. Apparently the locals don’t like the sound of freedom.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

The sides can be opened to allow the expansion of the muzzle blast. (photo from TheFirearmBlog)

A report from the Defense Technical Information Center reveals the U.S. Army has some silencers of its own, for both 105 mm and 120 mm to be used at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

Residents across Chesapeake Bay experience considerably louder noise than other nearby communities because the artillery’s blast sound is highly directional. Something had to be done.

The steel construction allows for it to be lifted into position and used when firing at a 30-degree elevation. But it cannot be attached to the turret, because tests showed it affected recoil and harm the turret barrel.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
Looks like a weird hammer to me. How about you? (photo from TheFirearmBlog)

The Firearm Blog also found a patent for a potential tank silencer, which would attach to the muzzle of the tank’s main turret.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
Seems cumbersome.

The holes on the silencer are kept as small as possible to keep the decibel levels lower, which is most effective behind and in front of the suppressor. The total cost of the construction is $100,000.

Silencers can reduce artillery noise by as much as 20 decibels, which may not seem like much, but is the difference between listening to your television and listening to your blender.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army will outgun the Russians with self-propelled artillery

The vehicle is built with a more capable, larger chassis, designed as an initial step toward outgunning Russian weapons


The Army is starting formal production of a new Self-Propelled Howitzer variant engineered for faster movement, better structural protection, improved drive-train ability, new suspension and advanced networking tech, service and industry developers said.

The new vehicle is built with a more capable, larger chassis, designed as an initial step toward building a next-generation cannon able to outgun existing Russian weapons.

As part of a longer-term plan to leverage the new larger chassis built into the Army’s new M109A7 variant, the Army’s Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center is beginning work on a new cannon able to hit enemies out to 70 kilometers, senior Army developers said.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

“Right now we have the 39 caliber cannon we have had since the 80s. We are range limited and the Russians can outgun us and shoot farther,” Maj. Gen. David Bassett, former Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, said last Fall at the service’s AUSA annual symposium. “If you had not replaced the chassis first, you would never be able to put that larger cannon on there.”

A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago – its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets – such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.

In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology, and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks and fast-growing attack drone fleet – all point to a growing need for the US to outrange and outgun potential adversaries.

Furthermore, given the Pentagon’s emphasis upon cross-domain warfare, land weapons are increasingly being developed to attack things like enemy ships, aircraft, and ground-based air defenses; naturally, the idea is to pinpoint and destroy enemy targets while remaining at a safer, more protected distance. Deputy Program Executive Officer for Missiles Space, Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch told Warrior the service is making a decided push to upgrade and develop longer-range weapons as a way to address current threats – and re-adjust following more than 15 years of counterinsurgency.

For example, senior Pentagon leaders have told Warrior Maven that there is some ongoing deliberation about placing mobile land-based artillery – such as a Paladin – in areas of the South China Sea as a credible deterrent against Chinese ships and aircraft.

Also Read: This is what makes the M109 Paladin so badass

Following years of development and advanced engineering, the Army and BAE Systems are now formally entering full-rate production of the new M109A7 and accompanying M992A3 ammunition carrier vehicles. BAE officials said the new Howitzer, designed to replace the existing M109A6 Paladin, will have 600-volts of onboard power generation, high-voltage electric gun drives, and projectile ramming systems.

Bassett described the A7 as a turret ring down revamp, including a new hull along with a new suspension and power-train. The new Howitzer will, among other things, greatly improve speed and mobility compared to the A6.

“In the past, the A6 Paladin was the slowest vehicle in the Army. It needs to leapfrog. We are restoring that mobility so it will be one of the faster vehicles. Howitzers can now outrun 113s,” Bassett said.

Also, as part of maintenance, life-cycle, and service extension – all aimed to improve logistics – the new Howitzer is built with an engine and other parts common to the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and emerging Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle.

Improved onboard power is, similar to other emerging higher-tech platforms, designed to enable the vehicle to quickly accommodate upgrades and new weapons technologies as they may evolve – such as lasers or advanced ammunition.

The advanced digital backbone and power generation capability provides significant growth potential for future payloads, a BAE Systems statement said.

One senior Army official told Warrior Maven that improved combat connectivity can enable multiple Howitzers to quickly share firing data, as part of a broader effort to expand battlefield networking and operate in more dispersed formations depending upon mission requirements.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
Paladin self-propelled Howitzers from 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, out of Fort Riley, Kansas, are lined up on the port of Gdansk, Poland, Sept. 14, 2017, as part of the staging to move the brigade to various locations throughout Eastern Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jacob A. McDonald, 21st Theater Sustainment Command)

The Army is also now working with the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office to explore additional innovations for the Howitzer platform.

Army Howitzers are now firing a super high-speed, high-tech, electromagnetic Hyper Velocity Projectile, initially developed as a Navy weapon, an effort to fast-track increasing lethal and effective weapons to war zones and key strategic locations, Pentagon officials said.

While initially conceived of and developed for the Navy’s emerging Rail Gun Weapon, the Pentagon and Army are now firing the Hyper Velocity Projectile from an Army Howitzer in order to potential harness near-term weapons ability, increase the scope, lethality, and rangeability to accelerate combat deployment of the lethal, high-speed round.

The railgun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.

Firing from an Army Howitzer, the hypervelocity projectile can fire at high speeds toward enemy targets to include buildings, force concentrations, weapons systems, drones, aircraft, vehicle bunkers and even incoming enemy missiles and artillery rounds.

“We can defend against an incoming salvo with a bullet. That is very much a focus getting ready for the future,” Dr. William Roper, Director of the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, told Scout Warrior among a small group of reporters last year.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Check out the military drills that frightened Los Angeles

Los Angeles residents got a surprise this week when helicopters, ostensibly filled with Special Forces operators, began flying around the Los Angeles and Long Beach skylines, disgorging their fully armed passengers into parking lots while simulated gunfire and explosions rang out.


Los Angeles Attack? Military Drill Sparks Panic

www.youtube.com

If you’re surprised to hear that the military instituted martial law in Los Angeles last night, well, obviously, it was an exercise.

As surprised residents began contacting journalists and taking to social media, the Army answered questions from journalists and told them that Los Angeles had been selected as a training location because its urban terrain is similar to that which soldiers might be deployed to in future conflicts.

Military exercises rattling nerves around LA | ABC7

www.youtube.com

The local terrain and training facilities in Los Angeles provide the Army with unique locations and simulates urban environments the service members may encounter when deployed overseas,the Army told CBS. “There is no replacement for realistic training. Each location selected enables special operations teams and flight crews to maintain maximum readiness and proficiency, validate equipment and exercise standard safety procedures.

The Army said that it had alerted local residents to the training, but it’s hard to get the word out to everyone in such a densely populated area. Apparently, some people missed the memo or were simply driving through the exercise area and didn’t know about the drills until they saw what appeared to be a raid happening in front of their eyes.

Some property owners had given permission for the military to use their land and buildings, so the operators had a lot of options in their work. The training is scheduled to go through Saturday, February 9.

This isn’t the first time that local residents have gotten surprised by military training. For instance, in 2015, Texas residents had gotten plenty of warning that Jade Helm 15, a massive exercise including vehicles, special operators, and aircraft, would be taking place.

Texans protested the training and pressured the governor to assign member of the Texas State Guard, separate from the National Guard, to monitor the training and ensure the federal troops didn’t take any illegal actions during the exercise. It grew into a massive conspiracy theory before the event took off, but the actual exercise took place with little drama.

Update: An earlier version of this story said that Jade Helm included tanks, something that caused the author to slap himself in the face the next morning when he realized that he had said that. Jade Helm did not include tanks. It did include some vehicles, but mostly just HMMWVs.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Combat controller goes up against 350 ISIS fighters

A special operations airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard will receive the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.

Gen. David L. Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, will present the Air Force Cross to Tech. Sgt Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, in a ceremony Ept. 13, 2019. The award — second only to the Medal of Honor — is given to members of the armed forces who display extraordinary heroism while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.


Keller earned the Air Force Cross on Aug. 16, 2017, while assigned as a joint terminal attack controller for Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Afghanistan during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Keller was on a clearance mission in Nangarhar Province against 350 Islamic state fighters, according to the award citation. After 15 hours of sustained contact, the assault force struck an improvised explosive device, killing four personnel and wounding 31. Injured and struggling to his feet, Keller executed air-to-ground engagements while returning fire, repulsing an enemy assault less than 150 meters away.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, receives the Air Force Cross, the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

Keller then helped move 13 critically wounded casualties to a helicopter landing zone “under a hail of enemy fire,” the citation said. “When medical evacuation helicopters were unable to identify the landing zone, he sprinted to the center of the field, exposing himself to enemy fire in order to marshal in both aircraft and aid in loading causalities.”

As U.S. forces departed, Keller fought off a three-sided enemy attack by returning fire and passing enemy positions on to another joint terminal attack controller.

“His courage, quick actions and tactical expertise … under fire directly contributed to the survival of the 130 members of his assault force, including 31 wounded in action,” the citation concluded.

A Silver Star medal for the same operation was presented at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Sept. 6, 2019, to Air Force Staff Sgt. Pete Dinich, an active-duty pararescueman assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing.

Special Tactics is the Air Force and Air National Guard’s special operations cadre, leading personnel recovery, global access, precision-strike missions and battlefield medical care.

This article originally appeared on National Guard. Follow @USNationalGuard on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Operation Song spreads Christmas message of love, hope and peace with music

The mission of Operation Song is to promote and support healing for veterans and military families by telling their stories through songwriting. These stories and songs are vitally important for the holiday season, too. 

Bob Regan is the President and original founder of Operation Song. He was a songwriter who was inspired while touring overseas in the early 2000s, seeing the transformative power music could have on America’s troops. As more and more injured service members returned home, he knew music could be a vital tool for healing hurt. The program itself started with weekly sessions at his local VA Medical Center in Tennessee, with the support of a music therapist. 

Since its official founding in 2012, he and other gifted songwriters have written hundreds of songs. Some of the most profound were even written about the holidays, one in particular was written that first year of operating. “A group of maybe five veterans, none with any musical experience, met at the Alvin C York VA when it was getting close to Christmas. The conversation turned to being deployed over the holidays,” Regan shared. That conversation turned into an unforgettable songwriting session later on that created Peace on Earth

The haunting words offer a deep look at what it’s like to be deployed during the holiday season. “This time of year I hear the hymn, ‘peace on earth, goodwill towards men’. But getting in the spirit is kinda hard; when you are in a tent in Kandahar.” The song goes on to talk about how the servicemember wished they could be home with their family but will keep doing what they have to and pray that one day all wars will end. It’s a stark reminder to those experiencing the quarantines that our troops have spent far more time away from their own families long before COVID-19.

The songwriting session was filled with raw and personal stories. “There were maybe six veterans of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. They began sharing stories of what it was like to be deployed over the holidays. Several stories were shared but we based the song around one veteran’s experience in Kandahar, Afghanistan since there were still a large number of troops serving there in 2012,” Regan explained. Less than an hour later, the song was complete. 

Words like “I stand guard on this silent night” continue to bring home the reminder that not everyone can be home for Christmas. Peace on Earth was important for Regan and the team at Operation Song to get out, he said. “To remind people that there are those serving far from home during this and every holiday season. Also that we can always hope, pray, and work for peace on earth, no matter where we are or how remote a possibility it may seem,” he shared. 

operation song

For many veterans, the memories of missed holidays are hard to process. It’s time and moments they can never get back. Operation Song opened the door for these veterans to share their deeply personal feelings about missing home, creating the space for healing. But despite the heartache of being deployed or standing duty during the holidays, it’s something most veterans will never truly regret. 

The mission of Operation Song is to bring veterans back, one song at a time. Through the powerful impact of telling their stories through music the burden and weight of heartache tends to dissipate. This Christmas, remember your veterans and active service members. Some are standing guard right now for your freedoms while others are still remembering things they’d rather not. Never forget.

To learn more about Operation Song and what they do, click here.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

There is an official time frame for the US withdrawal from Syria

By the time May 1, 2019, rolls around, American troops will have rolled out of Syria entirely, according to the Wall Street Journal. The plan calls for a complete American withdrawal from the country after the last vestiges of ISIS territory have been captured by the various anti-ISIS factions in the country.


As of February, the remaining Islamic State fighters and their families are fleeing whatever strips of territory still under its control in Syria as President Donald Trump doubled down on his assertion that the Islamic State had been defeated in Syria and the time is right for American troops to return to their home bases.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

Anti-ISIS Kurdish fighters pose with a captured ISIS flag.

The United States did not break the back of ISIS over the past five years on its own. Kurdish forces from Syria and Iraq, along with fighters from other various factions were led by U.S. forces in Syria, either through air cover, artillery support, and direction from American special operations troops. As of yet, there is no plan in place to secure these Syrian fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), once their American support is gone.

President Trump’s current timeline is set to pull a significant number of American troops out of Syria by mid-March, 2019, with a full withdrawal coming by the end of April. After that time, Kurdish fighters on the ground will be open to retaliation from Turkish forces operating in Syria, who consider the Kurds terrorists in their own right. Also fighting the Kurds will be other Islamic militant groups still operating, as well as Russian-backed Syrian government troops.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

A U.S. armored vehicle in Al-Hasakah meets with Kurdish YPG fighters in Kurdish-held territory in Northern Syria, May, 2017.

The United States is trying to reach a political agreement with the Turkish government to protect the Kurdish fighters, who did the bulk of the fighting against ISIS on the ground. Given the current timetable for withdrawal, an agreement seems unlikely unless the U.S. military slows its process. Kurdish allies will no doubt express alarm at the removal of the 2,000 Americans in Syria.

Pentagon spokespeople and the United States Central Command have all expressed that there is no official timeline for withdrawal, and no conditions are fixed for a removal of Americans from the country, but equipment and materiel support for the troops has already begun to move out of Syria.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

More memes than you can shake a bayonet at.


1. When you all show up to the ball in the same dress.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

2. They’re just so adorable when they play military.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

SEE ALSO: 17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force

3. The Air Force likes to front load the pain and get it out of the way.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
That way, the next six weeks or whatever aren’t too hard.

4. When the ensign is not happy with your performance.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

5. “My number provides firm support with a few nice rocks to prop me up.”

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

6. “Surprise!”

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

7. Not sure what insurance could do for you at this point.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
You may want to do the EOD jingle at this point.

8. Promises, promises.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
Don’t believe you’re getting off until you’re in the barracks with the door locked. Then, hide from the Duty NCO because he’ll bring you back.

9. Operational security is important.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

10. “It’ll be just like Call of Duty.”

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

11. If those bags aren’t filled with fungicide, he’s still screwed.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
Luckily, doc will be able to give you 800mg of ibuprofen to deal with the diseases you pick up.

 12. Forgot your shower shoes?

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
That’s going to come up at libo brief.

13. When boots graduate boot camp and are surprised they’re still boots.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
Turns out, EGA isn’t a championship trophy.

NOW: 17 insane Russian military inventions

OR: Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

Articles

This Air Force fighter ace was the inspiration for ‘Mustache March’

For most civilians, No-Shave November is the month of the year where we allow ourselves to grow what we think is the mustache that would make Tom Selleck weep. For Airmen of the U.S. Air Force, that month is March, or more commonly known as “Mustache March.”


Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

Mustache March is the mostly-unofficial mustache growing season in the USAF, which used to be a protest of the regulation against mustaches but became an act of defiance against dogmatic leadership. During the Vietnam War, Air Force triple ace Robin Olds decided to grow a distinctive, out-of-regs, handlebar mustache, which was later dubbed “bulletproof.”

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

Robin Olds is one of the United States Air Force’s most legendary Airmen. He earned his Ace status with 16 victories in World War II and Vietnam. He grew the mustache just to annoy his superior officers, referring to it as “the middle finger I couldn’t raise in PR photographs.” Once his mustache reached its peak, the popularity of growing mustaches caught on with his Airmen. They loved it and began to grow their own. Even though he came to hate the ‘stache, he kept it while he was in Vietnam, because it kept morale high.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
Then Col. Robin Olds seated in an F-4 fighter in Southeast Asia. The helmet he is wearing in the photo is on display in the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

Dismissing the irony of an officially accepted act of defiance, in 2014 Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh challenged the entire Air Force to an officially sanctioned Mustache March to honor General Olds, who died in 2007. General Welsh did not participate in 2015, due to the controversy the inherently all-male contest caused among some female Airmen; the tradition lives on among other Airmen, in the same spirit of honor and defiance of Air Force facial hair regs.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

You can be sure to see a lot of Air Force personnel as they come to work on April 1 cleared of their bulletproofing. So until then, celebrate with these photos of the legendary Robin Olds in all of his middle-fingered glory.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

MIGHTY TRENDING

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes

Ralph Stepney’s home on a quiet street in north Baltimore has a welcoming front porch and large rooms, with plenty of space for his comfortable recliner and vast collection of action movies. The house is owned by Joann West, a licensed caregiver who shares it with Stepney and his fellow Vietnam War veteran Frank Hundt.

“There is no place that I’d rather be. … I love the quiet of living here, the help we get. I thank the Lord every year that I am here,” Stepney, 73, said.

It’s a far cry from a decade ago, when Stepney was homeless and “didn’t care about anything.” His diabetes went unchecked and he had suffered a stroke — a medical event that landed him at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

After having part of his foot amputated, Stepney moved into long-term nursing home care at a VA medical facility, where he thought he’d remain — until he became a candidate for a small VA effort that puts aging veterans in private homes: the Medical Foster Home program.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
Ralph Stepney, a Vietnam War veteran who was homeless a decade ago, watches TV in his room.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

The $20.7 million-per-year program provides housing and care for more than 1,000 veterans in 42 states and Puerto Rico, serving as an alternative to nursing home care for those who cannot live safely on their own. Veterans pay their caregivers $1,500 to $3,000 a month, depending on location, saving the government about $10,000 a month in nursing home care. It has been difficult to scale up, though, because the VA accepts only foster homes that meet strict qualifications.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

For the veterans, it’s a chance to live in a home setting with caregivers who treat them like family. For the Department of Veterans Affairs, the program provides an option for meeting its legal obligation to care for ailing, aging patients at significantly reduced costs, since the veterans pay room and board directly to their caregivers.

Cost-effectiveness is but one of the program’s benefits. Stepney and Hundt, 67, are in good hands with West, who previously ran a home health care services company. And they’re in good company, watching television together in the main living room, going to elder care twice a week and sitting on West’s porch chatting with neighbors.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
Ralph Stepney (left) and Frank Hundt sit on the front porch of the Baltimore home they share with caregiver Joann West on May 18, 2018.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

West, who considers caring for older adults “her calling,” also savors the companionship and finds satisfaction in giving back to those who spent their young lives in military service to the U.S.

“I took care of my mother when she got cancer and I found that I really had a passion for it. I took classes and ran an in-home nursing care business for years. But my dream was always to get my own place and do what I am doing now,” West said. “God worked it out.”

The Medical Foster Home program has slightly more than 700 licensed caregivers who live full time with no more than three veterans and provide round-the-clock supervision and care, according to the VA. Akin to a community residential care facility, each foster home must be state-licensed as an assisted living facility and submit to frequent inspections by the VA as well as state inspectors, nutritionists, pharmacists and nurses.


Unlike typical community care facilities, foster home caregivers are required to live on-site and tend to the needs of their patients themselves 24/7 — or supply relief staff.

“It’s a lot of work, but I have support,” West says. “I try to make all my personal appointments on days when Mr. Ralph and Mr. Frank are out, but if I can’t, someone comes in to be here when I’m gone.”

VA medical foster home providers also must pass a federal background check, complete 80 hours of training before they can accept patients, plus 20 hours of additional training each year, and allow the VA to make announced and unannounced home visits. They cannot work outside the home and must maintain certification in first aid, CPR and medicine administration.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
Caregiver Joann West sits in the living room of her Baltimore home, which she shares with veterans Frank Hundt (left) and Ralph Stepney.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

But one prerequisite cannot be taught — the ability to make a veteran feel at home. West has grown children serving in the military and takes pride in contributing to the well-being of veterans.

“It’s a lot of joy taking care of them,” she said of Stepney and Hundt. “They deserve it.”

To be considered for the program, veterans must be enrolled in VA health care; have a serious, chronic disabling medical condition that requires a nursing home level of care; and need care coordination and access to VA services. It can take up to a month to place a veteran in a home once they are found eligible, according to the VA.

The veterans also must be able to cover their costs. Because medical foster homes are not considered institutional care, the VA is not allowed to pay for it directly. The average monthly fee, according to the VA, is $2,300, which most veterans cover with their VA compensation, Social Security and savings, said Nicole Trimble, Medical Foster Home coordinator at the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland.

Pilot program takes off

Since 1999, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been required to provide nursing home services to veterans who qualify for VA health care and have a service-connected disability rating of 70 percent or higher, or are considered unemployable and have a disability rating of 60 percent or higher.

The VA provides this care through short- or long-term nursing home facilities, respite care, community living centers on VA hospital grounds, private assisted living facilities and state veterans homes.

Shortly after, the VA Medical Center in Little Rock, Ark., launched an alternative — a pilot program that placed veterans in individual homes, at an average cost to the VA of roughly $60 a day, including administration and health care expenses, compared with upward of $500 a day for nursing home care.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
Ralph Stepney holds photos from a cruise he took to Bermuda with West and Hundt. Stepney put the photos into a keepsake album that he keeps at their home.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

And because veterans who are enrolled in the Medical Foster Care program must use the VA’s Home-Based Primary Care program, which provides an interdisciplinary team of health professionals for in-home medical treatment, the program saves the VA even more. One study showed that the home-based care has yielded a 59 percent drop in VA hospital inpatient days and a 31 percent reduction in admissions among those who participate.

More than 120 VA medical centers now oversee a Medical Foster Home program in their regions, and the VA has actively promoted the program within its health system.

It also has attracted bipartisan congressional support. In 2013, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a bill to allow the VA to pay for medical foster homes directly.

In 2015, former House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) introduced similar legislation that would have allowed the VA to pay for up to 900 veterans under the program.

And in May, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) raised the issue again, sponsoring a bill similar to Miller’s. “Allowing veterans to exercise greater flexibility over their benefits ensures that their individual needs are best met,” Higgins said in support of the program.

A guardian ‘angel’

Foster care has been a blessing for the family of Hundt, who suffered a stroke shortly after his wife died and was unable to care for himself. Hundt’s daughter, Kimberly Malczewski, lives nearby and often stops in to visit her dad, sometimes with her 2-year-old son.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
Frank Hundt watches TV in his bedroom at caregiver Joann West’s home in Baltimore on May 18, 2018.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

“I’m not sure where my father would be if he didn’t have this,” she said. “With my life situation — my husband and I both work full time, we have no extra room in our house, and we have a small child — I can’t take care of him the way Miss Joann does.”

Trimble, whose program started in 2012 and has five homes, said she hopes to expand by two to three homes a year. The VA will remain meticulous about selecting homes.

“There is a strict inspection and vetting process to be a medical foster home,” Trimble said. “We only will accept the best.”

It also takes a special person to be an “angel,” as the caregivers are referred to in the program’s motto, “Where Heroes Meet Angels.”

Stepney and Hundt agree West has earned her wings. On a recent cruise to Bermuda, she brought Stepney and Hundt along.

For Hundt, it was the first time he’d been on a boat. And Stepney said it was nothing like the transport ships he and his fellow troops used in the late 1960s: “Well, I’ve gotten to travel, but it was mainly two years in Vietnam, and there weren’t any women around.”

When asked why she brought the pair along, West said caregiving is “a ministry, something you really have to like to do.”

“And you know how the saying goes,” she said. “When you like what you do, you never work a day in your life.”

This article originally appeared on Kaiser Health News. Follow @KHNews on Twitter.

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

Staff Sgt. Brian Alfano, a survival, evasion, resistance and escape instructor with the 103rd Rescue Squadron, 106th Rescue Wing, demonstrates an overt method for marking a drop zone during a bundle drop training flight at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Jan. 19, 2016.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

First Lt. Matthew Sanders, a 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilot, prepares for a combat sortie in an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 17, 2016. Airmen assigned to the 421st EFS, known as the “Black Widows,” are deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support missions.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys

ARMY:

A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), completes a routine safety measure in preparation for a static line jump from a Ch-47 Chinook helicopter assigned to the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, on to St. Mere Eglise Drop Zone on Fort Bragg, N.C., Jan. 6, 2016.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
U.S. Army photo

Soldiers, assigned to the US Army Golden Knights parachute demonstration team, conduct a training jump over Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Jan. 19, 2016.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Muncy, The National Guard

Soldiers assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, United States Army Europe – USAREUR, conducts convoy operations with Stryker armored combat vehicles during Exercise Allied Spirit IV at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany, Jan. 20, 2016.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William A. Tanner

NAVY:

CHANGI, Singapore (Jan. 13, 2016) Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class James Strotler secures a bolt in place for the retractable bit for towing aboard USS Fort Worth (LCS 3). Currently on a rotational deployment in support of the Asia-Pacific Rebalance, Fort Worth is a fast and agile warship tailor-made to patrol the region’s littorals and work hull-to-hull with partner navies, providing 7th Fleet with the flexible capabilities it needs now and in the future.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Antonio Turretto Ramos

GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 14, 2016) Marines and sailors aboard the USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) unload boxes during a replenishment at sea in the Gulf of Oman. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit is embarked on the Kearsarge Amphibious Readiness Group and is deployed to maintain regional security in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough

MARINE CORPS:

U.S. Marines with Maritime Raid Force, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct a deck shoot during Sustainment Exercise aboard the USS Boxer, January 18, 2016. SUSTEX is designed to reinforce and refine the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group/MEU’s execution of mission essential tasks in preparation for their upcoming deployment.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Hector de Jesus

Marines with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose MAGTF – CR – CC, recover a simulated casualty as part of a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise at an Undisclosed Location in Southwest Asia Jan. 12, 2016. SPMAGTF-CR-CC is ready to respond to any crisis response mission in theater to include the employment of a TRAP force.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Akeel Austin

COAST GUARD:

The HC144 Ocean Sentry prepares for an evening training flight at Air Station Cape Cod. Frequent night flights like this one allow crews to remain proficient and ready to respond no matter the time of day or night.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
USCG Photo

Air Station Cape Cod is the only airfield whose maintenance and operation is entirely run by the Coast Guard. As a result, planes and helicopters aren’t the only heavy machinery that we get to manage!

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
USCG photo

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump opts out of a visit to Korea’s DMZ

President Donald Trump is not planning to visit the border between North and South Korea known as the Demilitarized Zone when he visits Asia next month.


The White House says Trump instead plans to visit Camp Humphreys, a military base about 40 miles south of Seoul. The White House says time constraints would likely not permit Trump to do both, although plans could still change.

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10
Camp Humphreys. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Jaesang Ma)

Most US presidents have visited the border as a signal to South Korea and other allies that the US will not stand for any aggression from the rogue North Korean regime. Vice President Mike Pence visited the DMZ earlier this year.

South Korea is one of five nations Trump will visit during 12-day Asia trip in early November.

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 10 edition)

Get your week started with the right intel:


Now: The most important battlefield innovation is not a weapon